A pinched nerve can be a painful experience and can occur anywhere, but the cervical spine is particularly susceptible because of the many joints, high mobility and proximity to many nerves. One of the most common ways that a nerve becomes pinched in the neck is by a herniated disc that pushes out of its normal confines and puts pressure on one of the delicate spinal nerves. A pinched nerve causes sharp, burning pain, numbness and tingling, and muscle weakness. In addition to many other conservative therapies, there are several medications that may be helpful in treating the symptoms of a pinched nerve.
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When a cervical disc breaks down and herniates, it can put pressure directly on the nerves, but it can also cause inflammation. The chemicals contained in the inflammation can irritate the nerves and cause many of the same symptoms as a pinched nerve. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, include medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. These medications are particularly useful because they treat both pain and inflammation. NSAIDs are available over the counter or by prescription if greater potency is required, according to Mayo Clinic.
If the pain involved with a pinched nerve becomes severe enough, a doctor may prescribe a short course of narcotic pain relievers. These medications are powerful and are reserved for patients who have not responded to the more conservative medications, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. These medications work by binding to chemical receptors in the brain and blocking the sensation of pain. Narcotics should be used for a short period of time because they have the potential to cause more severe side effects, including dependency.
Nerves are living tissues that are very sensitive to compression and inflammatory chemicals. One medication that may be useful in relieving the pain and other symptoms associated with a compressed nerve is corticosteroids. Corticosteroids do not treat pain through modulation in the brain like narcotics, but rather relieve it by decreasing the inflammation, according to Spine Universe. This medication may be taken orally or can be injected directly into the joint spaces. By injecting the steroid into the painful area, less systemic side effects are experienced and the medication has a greater chance of working.
Many cases of pinched nerves are aggravated by pressure caused in part by muscles that spasm. As these muscles contract involuntarily they increase the pressure on the disc and soft tissues leading to greater pressure on the nerves. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, muscle relaxants are shown to be only marginally effective and have significant risk of side effects. Because of this, they are recommended for only a few days of use.